Migrants are not ‘voiceless’. This idea denies migrants, including refugees, of their agency and is based in White saviourism.

People who claim to be on the side of migrant justice will often claim that migrants, including refugees, are ‘voiceless’ and that they need to be ‘given a voice’. This is a symptom of White saviourism. White saviours want to command attention, be the ones to “save” migrants and be praised for “giving” them a voice. This language also shows the way White saviours will speak over migrants and centre their own privileged worldviews as a representation of the migrant experience. 

The insinuation that migrants are ‘voiceless’ is reductive and denies migrant communities of their agency. It detracts from the systems that force the migrant voice to be silenced and deny them a platform. 

Society’s racist power structures, which are also upheld in the charity sector, leave racialised migrants spoken on behalf of by White members of civil society. Civil society does not allow racialised migrants the resources or space especially when they ‘speak truth to power’ but will gaslight them by describing them as “voiceless”. 

Migrants, including refugees are not “voiceless”  their voices are purposefully being marginalised by those who claim to be their allies.  

“There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” – Arundhati Roy

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